October 30, 2017
Bacteriophages found an effective alternative to antibiotic use
The use of bacteriophages, or phages, has been found to be an effective alternative to the use of antibiotics to fight the pathogens responsible for the diseases affecting farmed fish, according to a European project coordinated by the Spain-based research firm AZTI.
The project-participated in by researchers from Biopolis S.L. (Spain), the University of Aveiro (Portugal) and the Aguacircia Aquaculture company (Portugal)-evaluated the impact of the use of phages on the environmental and intestinal bacteria communities of the fish.
A bacteriophage is commonly defined as a type of virus that infects bacteria. The word literally means "bacteria eater," because bacteriophages destroy their host cells.
The use of natural bacteriophages does not affect the health of fish and consumers.
The results obtained from the study showed that the use of these organisms, which infect and destroy bacteria, reduces the environmental impact of fish farms and increase their profitability by lowering mortality in the early stages of the breeding process.
It was also shown that it did not modify the marine bacteria population in the tanks on the fish farm or in the river where the fish farm is located, so it has zero impact or very limited impact on the bacterial ecology.
Aquaculture, which provides over 50% of the world's supply of fish and seafood, faces problems derived from the development and rapid transfer of bacterial infections in the fish farms. The most common treatment to prevent such infections is the use of antibiotics.
However, despite the call for responsible use of antibiotics, their prolonged use in aquaculture has led to the development of resistant bacteria. Many of these antibiotics are non-specific as they act not only against the problematic pathogen but also against other bacteria naturally present in the environment, which may modify natural populations and present an important risk for the environment.
All of this has led to the search for alternative solutions to the use of antibiotics to fight the constant threat of bacterial infections, particularly in the early stages, when vaccination is not possible and the maintenance of the bacterial ecosystem is vital.